Tiniest dinosaur footprint discovered in Southwest China's 'dinosaur home'

A 10.2 millimeter dinosaur footprint, so far the tiniest such discovery ever found in China, has been discovered in the city of Zigong, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the Zigong Dinosaur Museum announced on Saturday. 

Tiniest dinosaur footprint discovered in Southwest China's 'dinosaur home'

The tiny footprint was found on one of eight well-preserved fossil boards of Grallator footprints, a common type of small, three-toed print made by a variety of bipedal theropod dinosaurs.

More than 40 three-toed footprints were identified on the No.5 board with the tiny 10.2 millimeter by 9.6 millimeter foot-print hidden among those that are an average 2 centimeters in size. 

The footprint is the smallest dinosaur footprint ever recorded in China.  

“The discovered footprints are valuable resources for researchers to further study the composition of the local dinosaur groups at the time and the distinctions between them.

The footprints, of a similar shape but of different sizes, are an indicator to show the variety of the dinosaur group,” Wang, a dinosaur researcher, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Whether or not the small footprint was left by a miniature adult dinosaur or a newborn is still a question for further investigation. Local experts are inclined to believe it was left by a baby dinosaur, and from analyzing the footprint’s size, the creature is estimated to have been around 12 centimeters long, which is roughly equivalent to a modern sparrow. 

The dinosaur footprints on fossil board No.5 first came to light in 2017 after a local resident posted a few photos online about the “chicken feet” stepping stones he saw in a pond. Local experts examined the footprints and determined that they had been made by dinosaurs millions of years ago. 

Grallator footprints, which date from the Early Triassic to the early Cretaceous, tend to be 15 centimeters or less in size and have been discovered in Sichuan Province and other countries such as the US and Brazil. 

Known as China’s “home of dinosaurs,” Zigong has produced numerous surprising discoveries. In December 2020, a sauropod dinosaur fossil was found by a local resident. More than 161 dinosaurs fossils have been discovered in a more than 4,000 square kilometers range around Zigong as of 2020. 

Originally published at Ecns.cn